From robots to Regenix bespoke formulas, there are few lengths the industry won't go to for a full head of hair.
For those whose visages are plastered on increasingly high-def screens around the world, hair loss and balding are nightmares. "As an actor loses hair, they lose work," says David Shusterman, hair transplant surgeon and founder of New York Medicine Doctors, which treats a number of models, producers and actors. In 2011, Chris Evans, aka Captain America, was candid about his hair beginning to disappear: "I'm supposed to be this superior human. How horrible would it be if this superior man has male pattern baldness?" No word on what he has done about it since, because the shroud of secrecy around male hair loss has become only more opaque.
Tom Arnold, John Cleese, Jason Alexander, Dennis Miller, Christopher Knight and Joey Fatone all have been vocal about efforts to regain a healthy pile, from transplants to Farrell toupees, but no longer. Unlike 20 or even three years ago, when plugs came with telltale back-of-head scars, surgeons' best work now goes virtually undetected. "Since [celebrities] don’t have to say anything, they choose not to," says Craig Ziering, aka Doc Hollywood of hair restoration. “They don't have to admit to it.”
Except for Matthew McConaughey, who for 18 years, has religiously rubbed Regenix's bespoke biopharmaceutical liquid into his scalp three times a week, says CEO Bill Edwards: "He has been a client since 1999, and I promise you he has never missed a treatment day. I send it to him when he and his buddies are on a camping trip." Other stars, says Edwards, would talk about Regenix — an oft updated, custom formulation based on lab test results from the Cedars-Sinai clinic ($200 to $250 a month for two to six months initially) — but "agents won't let them because of fear of losing work and insurance" on projects.
These days, early detection is key to treating hair loss. Dermatologists and plastic surgeons recommend testing 250 biomarkers ($400 to $500) to analyze causes — anemia, hormonal issues, genes — before charting a course of action. A-list dermatologist David Colbert predicts that in the future, “unlocking the genetic key of the hair growth cycle and finding a biological control switch in the form of a pill or solution would be the holy grail of baldness." He also cites progenitor cells used to regrow dead follicles — making hair production possible after baldness — and hair cloning, on which billions are already being spent testing on mice, as next-level breakthroughs. Current technologies span the gamut, from robot-assisted transplants to cryogenic head caps to amniotic-fluid injections.
A version of this story first appeared in the June 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
If someone is balding — as in, there are no living hair follicles in an area — transplants are the only option. A transplant, says Ziering, has a profound effect and can make a person appear 10-plus years younger, which can have a substantial impact on careers in a youth-obsessed industry. His devotees include many working actors not getting the roles they want, as well as a directors, producers and agents who refer each other. "People think we cut a big strip of hair off the back of the head, cut it into pieces, and put them in front, but now we use a machine that takes one follicle at a time from the back and moves it to the front," says L.A. plastic surgeon Darshan Shah. The eight-hour procedure transfers 1,000 to 1,500 follicles (out of up to 150,000 follicles), each one growing one to three hairs ($10,000 to $15,000). "There is no scar," says Shah, and almost no downtime.
The ARTAS Robotic Hair Transplant System ($20,000 and up) works the same way, but a robot does the follicular extraction, some say with more precision than a surgeon. Ziering — who is Arnold's surgeon and who came personally recommended by Caitlyn Jenner — purchased the U.S.' first ARTAS robot to make 3D models of patients' heads and perform incisions according to his designs. "I've had clients caught on camera a week later, and nobody knew they had anything done," he says. In recent years, an increasing number of his patients are black musicians, athletes and actors who desire sharp hairlines. The transgender community has embraced the surgery, too. Says Ziering, who has performed more than 22,000 transplants in the past 27 years: "I seem to specialize in the male-to-female transgender transformation." He also uses ARTAS to fill in patchy beards and disconnected goatees, "very popular and trendy in Hollywood today" ($10,000 to $20,000).
Like many surgeons, Florida-based Alan Bauman, whose patients include athletes and politicians, touts PRP, or platelet rich plasma — the end product of spinning a patient's blood in a centrifuge to inject back into his or her face (e.g., the Kim Kardashian-popularized vampire facial) or sports injuries for rapid healing (Kobe Bryant, Rafael Nadal). A lunch-hour outpatient procedure — one session can suffice, but most patients require upkeep every six months at $600 to $1,000 a pop — triggers regrowth from hereditary hair loss.
"It has been well documented that platelets' growth factors are the exact [ones] responsible for regulating growth cycles of hair follicles on a cellular level," says Bauman. Additives such as porcine bladder (dropped because “patients were uncomfortable with the idea," he says) led to ACell, or liquefied human placental tissue, which can be used to boost PRP. Harvested from screened donors who deliver by sterile cesarean section, ACell ($2,500 an injection) produces results that last 10 to 20 months. Ziering combines ACell with PRP — and growth factor-rich amniotic fluid — for an annual injection ($3,000).
At Arizona-based National Hair Loss treatment centers, president Carly Klein — who says the company has worked with Frankie Muniz and may soon ink a deal with Mario Lopez to spread the word to the Latino community — boasts a super centrifuge that yields 1,100 platelets per unit (compared to 100 to 150 typically), to which it adds amniotic fluid for a $7,000 treatment that Klein says is 1,000 times stronger than basic PRP: "It's like an espresso shot to the hair. Things that were almost dead, we can resurrect in one treatment."
Trials to study PRP with stem cells from fat tissue are underway. Shah is charging $15,000 to test on soap opera stars and music producers at his West Hollywood clinic. Ziering is conducting trials with a company supplying fetal foreskin from cells "multiplied in culture" to yield a "promising" hair-stimulating complex called HSC.
Cryotherapy, in which the scalp is chilled to sub-freezing temperatures, may be another antidote to thinning, with one caveat: Klein says $2,500 cryo caps — which are sometimes used by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy — are good only when perfectly administered; if the timing is off by even five minutes, you'll still lose hair.
Arguably more effective are LED light treatments, which dermatologist David Colbert performs at New York Dermatology Group, starting at $250. "Laser hair caps stimulate regrowth and decrease shedding," says Francesca Fusco of NYC's Wexler Dermatology. Klein adds that a medical-grade laser like Capillus — the first to have received FDA approval for halting hair loss — has an efficacy rate of up to 99 percent, with results lasting up to 12 years: "It will completely stop [loss]," with the average person gaining a 66 percent increase in hair density (from $2,000).
Some of Ziering's patients also get scalp micropigmentation, or SMP, which is a form of temporary tattoo in which the artist uses brush strokes or dots to simulate hair in between existing strands, and eliminate the scalp-to-hair color contrast whenever light shines through. It lasts three to seven years and can be used to cover old transplant scars, too. Danny Aziz of Miami's Scalp Evolution, which has a contingent of entertainment industry patients, performs the procedure ($1,000 to $4,000) on men and women at varying stages of hair loss. SMP made its way to the US from Europe around 2010 and quickly became popular as there is zero recovery downtime. L.A. permanent makeup artist Dominique Bossavy administers a similar Nano Color Infusion (from $2,500) on post-transplant men to hide donor-site scars and increase the look of fullness. A numbing agent is used for the two-hour procedure and two sessions are required. She does not advise trying this procedure on its own to hide bald spots, because as more hair falls out, the remaining patches of ink will appear Dalmatian-esque.
In addition to Regenix, the hero among topicals, and Rogaine — which slows hair loss by only about 10 percent, says Klein — Ziering prescribes Z82, which contains retinoic acid and minoxidil ($195 for a three-month supply). As a supplement, Propecia can't turn the clock back — it's only effective with brand-new hair loss. Gal Gadot's hairstylist Mark Townsend says after noticing thinning, he began taking Viviscal tablets ($50 a month), folic acid and biotin, and he has "definitely seen improvement." Bauman prescribes Nutrafol, made up of vitamins, minerals and adaptogens ($88 a month), which treats triggers like stress, inflammation and free radicals. Kendall and Kylie Jenner's hairstylist Jonathan Colombini is "constantly asked what can be done about thin hair" by clients and takes Nutrafol to combat his own receding hairline. After all, says Ziering: "There's a big machismo with a man's hair. It's a symbol of virility. It gives men confidence."
Bright lights on the red carpet can make even a good head of hair look thin with the scalp shining through," says dermatologist David Colbert. Hollywood hairstylists camouflage sparse areas with products such as Full Disclosure Scalp Cover Cream ($42; qvc.com) by Blake Lively's makeup artist Kristofer Buckle. One talent agency partner advises his male clients to use Toppik fiber spray (from $8; toppik.com) paired with Bumble and bumble's colored hair powders ($36; bumbleandbumble.com). Celebrity hairdresser Sunnie Brook (who's worked with Elisabeth Moss) likes Color Wow ($27; colorwowhair.com), which she uses for on-camera situations, to "chubby up the hair shaft" with panthenol, aka vitamin B5. Another trick of the trade: volume powders (like Bumble and bumble's Pret-a-Powder; $27) that soak up scalp oils. "Clients who have fine hair and an oily scalp look like they have thinning hair," says Brook, "so these products act as blotters." Julien Farel, hairstylist to Daniel Craig, uses his Magnifique Hair & Scalp Fortifying Serum ($135; julienfarel .com), which stimulates renewal and delays graying. "We used 50 years of skin-care research and applied it to scalp and hair," he says. "We can't keep it in stock."